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Gastroenterol Hepatol Bed Bench. 2012 Winter;5(1):16-23.

Adverse reactions to the sulphite additives.

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Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health and Human Biosciences, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC 3086, Australia ; Visiting Fellow, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU College of Medicine and Health Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia.
Adjunct Associate Professor, Lung Institute of Western Australia (Inc.), Centre for Asthma, Allergy and Respiratory Research, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia.


Sulphites are widely used as preservative and antioxidant additives in the food and pharmaceutical industries. Exposure to sulphites has been reported to induce a range of adverse clinical effects in sensitive individuals, ranging from dermatitis, urticaria, flushing, hypotension, abdominal pain and diarrhoea to life-threatening anaphylactic and asthmatic reactions. Exposure to the sulphites arises mainly from the consumption of foods and drinks that contain these additives; however exposure may also occur through the use of pharmaceutical products, as well as in occupational settings. Most studies report a prevalence of sulphite sensitivity of 3 to 10% among asthmatic subjects who ingest these additives. However, the severity of these reactions varies, and steroid-dependent asthmatics, those with marked airway hyperresponsiveness, and children with chronic asthma, appear to be at greater risk. Although a number of potential mechanisms have been proposed, the precise mechanisms underlying sulphite sensitivity remain unclear.


Asthma; Food additive; Sulphites


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